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A pair of ospreys have made the first breeding attempt in southern England for almost 200 years.

Conservationists are delighted that a pair of birds at Poole Harbor in Dorset have produced an egg which they are keeping in a nest in a secret location. Thanks to cameras in the nest, viewers can watch the female osprey fish incubate her egg on a live stream.

Live webcam from a Poole Harbor Osprey nesting platform.

Birds of prey were once common throughout Western Europe, but due to human persecution as well as habitat loss, they became locally extinct in the early 1800s. Their nests were historically plundered for their eggs and birds were slaughtered for taxidermy. Today, they are still regularly slaughtered for sport in southern Europe.

Since 2017, experts from the Roy Dennis Foundation and Birds of Poole Harbor have been working to reintroduce them to southern England, relocating adult birds from Scotland. There is a breeding population at Rutland Water in the Midlands, after a translocation program which began in 1996, and after decades of conservation efforts there are now hundreds of ospreys in Scotland.

Paul Morton of Birds of Poole Harbor said: “To know that there is now an osprey egg in a nest in Poole Harbor is just amazing. It is the culmination of seven years of hard work. Projects like this will always take time, but it’s so nice to know that the birds have reached this milestone, and to see CJ7 incubate her first egg is breathtaking.

“There is still a lot for them to learn as new parents, and breeding success is certainly not guaranteed. However, everything we are seeing at the moment is looking really positive and hopefully by the end of May we will start to see them feeding their newly hatched chicks.

It is hoped the pair will produce two more eggs over the next week and then a 35-40 day incubation period will begin with the possibility of osprey chicks hatching by the end of May.

Poole Harbor was chosen for the project because it has an abundance of fish for birds to feed on. Ospreys from other parts of the UK are known to pass through the harbor on their way to and from Europe on their migration route, and they stop to hunt gray mullet and plaice in the large canals and bays shallow harbor.

This couple flew to West Africa last fall, and the Birds of Poole Harbor team had to wait seven months to see if they would return. The passage of birds to Africa is fraught with pitfalls, including adverse weather conditions and illegal hunting. They both arrived earlier this month and settled down to breed.

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